In the absence of one Donald Trump, who hosted a rally for himself in Michigan in lieu of attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night, the MC and comedian Michelle Wolf declined to, as they say, take any prisoners. “Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with Trump, let’s get this over with,” Wolf said, opening her remarks. It was the president’s second consecutive year skipping the Correspondents’ Dinner, attendance at which would require him to be able to take a joke at his own expense. (The last president to miss the dinner, as CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out on Twitter, was Ronald Reagan, in 1981—then recovering from an attempted assassination.)
Among the objects of her scathing one-liners were several White House officials who did attend the Correspondents’ Dinner—for, it seems, they weren’t professionally mandated to fill out the crowd at the Michigan rally—as well as reporters and broadcast journalists across the political spectrum. Mike Pence, Al Franken, Megyn Kelly, Rachel Maddow, Kellyanne Conway, and Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski all got a bit of a roast—but perhaps no segment of the speech was quite so noted among audiences as Wolf’s jokes about Trump’s wealth (“Mr. President, I don’t think you’re very rich; you might be rich in Idaho, but in New York, you’re doing fine”) and about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, just in general.
Sanders was reportedly seated in Wolf’s direct line of sight, making the comments all the bolder: “I loved you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale,” Wolf said to her. “I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Is it Sarah Sanders, Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Is it Cousin Huckabee? Is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom, but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know, Aunt Coulter.”
The New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman complimented Sanders’s seeming gameness for taking the criticism—“That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive,” she wrote on Twitter—a perspective that, judging by social media reactions both to her tweet and to the Correspondents’ Dinner as a whole, not all agree with. Kathy Griffin, speaking with The Washington Post after the dinner (she was in the room for Wolf’s speech), said, “Washington is so thin-skinned.” (She would know.) Celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell (whose cover photo is already an image of Wolf), Kumail Nanjiani, and Anthony Bourdain weighed in on social media, largely praising Wolf’s performance—though, of course, conservative commentators and trolls offered the inverse perspective on Twitter as well. See some of the most notable celebrity reactions, below.
But there was perhaps no response as pithy as Wolf’s own, in response to Sean Spicer’s tweet that “Tonight’s #WHCD was a disgrace.” “Thank you!” she responded.
Also, while the president was off in Michigan, remarking, as always, on the size of the crowd at his rally, Wolf closed the night with a reminder: Flint, Michigan, still doesn’t have water.
The Best White House Correspondents Dinner Pictures Ever, from Caroline Kennedy to Lindsay Lohan
The ’70s . Saturday Night Live star Chevy Chase, with then-wife Jacqueline Carlin Chase, stole the spotlight in the 1970s.
Collage by @TheCuadro. Chevy Chase, Jacqueline Carlin Chase photographed by Fred Hermansky, 1976.
The ’80s Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White and Sylvester Stallone were the ultimate ’80s attendees.
Collage by @TheCuadro. Sylvester Stallone, Vanna White photographed by Ron Galella, 1988.
The ’90s John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette, an iconic ’90s couple, took some of the most memorable @WhiteHouse Correspondents’ Dinner photos to date.
Collage by @TheCuadro. John F. Kennedy, Jr., Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, James Rubin, photos by Manny Ceneta and Tyler Mallory, 1999.
John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife Carolyn in 1999. Photo by Tyler Mallory/Liaison.
Goldie Hawn in 2005. Photo by Lawrence Lucier/FilmMagic.
Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore in 2009. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.
Chevy Chase, Jacqueline Carlin Chase in 1976. Photo by Fred Hermansky/NBCU Photo Bank.
Pamela Anderson and Dan Mathews of PETA in 2008. Photo by Jeff Snyder/FilmMagic.
Kim Kardashian in 2010. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.
Anna Wintour in 2013. Photo by Kris Connor/FilmMagic.
Chevy Chase, Lorne Michaels, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, President Gerald Ford in 1976. Photo by Fred Hermansky/NBCU Photo Bank.
Kerry Washington in 2009. Photo by Jeff Snyder/FilmMagic.
Katy Perry in 2013. Photo by Getty Images.
Irina Shayk in 2012. Photo by Kris Connor/FilmMagic.
Claire Danes in 2013. Photo by Kris Connor/FilmMagic.
Vanna White and Sylvester Stallone in 1988. Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage.
Anne Vyalitsyna attends the 101st Annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton on April 25, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Melanie Trump in 2011. Photo by Getty Images.
Kate Mara in 2013. Photo by Getty Images.
Kate Hudson in 2012. Photo by Kris Connor/FilmMagic.
Dakota Fanning in 2012. Photo by Kris Connor/FilmMagic.
Kris Jenner and Kim Kardashian in 2012. Photo by Kris Connor/FilmMagic.
Lindsay Lohan in 2012. Photo by Kris Connor/FilmMagic.
Lupita Nyong’o in 2014 in. Photo by Kris Connor/FilmMagic.
The Jonas Brothers in 2008. Photo by Jeff Snyder/FilmMagic.
Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt in 2008. Photo by Jeff Snyder/FilmMagic.
Katie Couric, Jenna Dewan-Tatum and Chrissy Teigen attend the annual White House Correspondent’s Association Gala at the Washington Hilton hotel April 25, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The dinner is an annual event attended by journalists, politicians and celebrities. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
Jessica Simpson and Jimmy Fallon attend the Bloomberg/Vanity Fair party following the 2010 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner at the residence of the French Ambassador on May 1, 2010 in Washington, United States. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/VF1/WireImage.
Justin Bieber in 2010. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.
Trudie Styler and Sting in 2009. Photo by Jeff Snyder/FilmMagic.